Thyroid surgery in the elderly

N. Schwartz, T. Shpitzer, R. Feinmesser, E. Robenshtok, G. Bachar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The increase in life expectancy combined with the relatively high incidence of thyroid disease requiring surgery in the elderly has raised questions concerning the appropriate management of the older patient. Aim: Evaluation of the surgical management and outcome of thyroid disease requiring surgery in elderly patients. Methods: We performed a retrospective cohort study, in which the medical charts of 2,239 patients who underwent total thyroidectomy or hemithyroidectomy between 1995 and 2011 in a tertiary medical center were reviewed for clinical, disease-related, operative and outcome measures. Findings were analyzed between the patients aged more than 75 years for whom complete information was available (n = 255) and a control group of 100 patients aged 40-60 years matched for sex and extent of surgery. Results: The prevalence of comorbidities was significantly higher in the elderly. Presenting symptoms were similar in the two groups; in approximately 25% of both groups thyroid cancer was an incidental finding. There were no between-group differences in surgery duration, time to anesthesia induction, recovery time from anesthesia, or rate of postoperative complications. Hospitalization was 3 days longer on average in the older group. Malignancy rates and distribution of histologic subtypes were similar in the two groups, although the older group presented with significantly higher rates of advanced disease stage and larger tumors. There were no differences in recurrence rate both locoregional and distant metastases. However, a higher proportion of older patients failed to achieve cure. Conclusion: Although older patients with thyroid disease have more comorbidities and advanced disease, there is no practical difference in their operative management and surgical outcome compared to younger patients. Surgery should not be deferred solely on the basis of age in the presence of compelling indications; rather, the decision should be based on individual risk-benefit analysis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)401-407
Number of pages7
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 2013


  • Complication
  • Elderly
  • Surgery
  • Thyroid


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